Goosen takes important step

PALM HARBOR, Fla. — Retief Goosen took an important step toward rejoining the elite in golf Sunday by closing with a 1-under 70 for a one-shot victory in the Transitions Championship, his first PGA Tour win in nearly four years.

Goosen had a two-shot lead with three holes to play on the demanding Copperhead Course at Innisbrook, when just like everyone else, he struggled to hang on. The two-time U.S. Open champion barely made it.

Needing only two putts from 25 feet for the win, he watched his first putt roll 5 feet past the hole. His par putt curled in the side of the cup, giving him a one-shot victory over Charles Howell III and Brett Quigley.

"Eventually, you wonder if you can still do it," Goosen said.

Howell, an Augusta, Ga., native who has to win over the next two weeks to earn a trip to the Masters, made bogeys on the 15th and 16th holes, and couldn't find any birdies to catch up. He shot a 69 for his best finish since winning at Riviera two years ago.

Quigley is now 0-for-342 in his 13 years on the PGA Tour, but he was bogey-free on the back nine and closed with a 68 for his second runner-up finish in as many weeks.

Former Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman, trying to become the seventh player in his 50s to win on the PGA Tour, did not make a birdie until a long putt on the 17th hole, and he shot a 75 to tie for eighth.

Goosen, a 40-year-old South African who was part of the "Big Three" in the world ranking three years ago, nearly fell out of the top 50 until he overcame some problems with corrective eye surgery and worked hard on his fitness, dropping some 20 pounds.

He won on the South African and Asian tours during the fall, but this was a big breakthrough — especially with the Masters coming up.

Goosen finished at 8-under 276 and won for the seventh time on the PGA Tour. It was his second victory at Innisbrook, having won in 2003 when it was played in the fall.

This looked more like June with greens so crusty and firm that the grass began dying on the weekend and some shots were difficult to hold. It was similar to Shinnecock Hills, where Goosen won his second U.S. Open in 2004.

"It definitely got like Shinnecock," he said. "You couldn't hit them soft enough."

Lehman, who turned 50 two weeks ago, had a one-shot lead going into the final round as he tried to become the first ex-Ryder Cup captain since Tom Watson in 1998 to win on the PGA Tour.

He hit a poor chip on the second hole that led to bogey and cost him the lead. That led to a revolving door of challengers, with five players atop the leaderboard at various points during the final round.

But the back nine was more about hanging on than forging ahead.

And for so many, it was about falling apart.

Steve Stricker rallied from a four-shot deficit to tie for the lead, but he couldn't sustain it. After two solid par saves, he flew the green from a bunker on the par-3 17th for bogey, then missed the green from the middle of the 18th fairway and made another bogey. He closed with a 69 and tied for fourth.

It was the third time this year Stricker had the lead on the back nine and failed to win.

Charlie Wi chipped in twice on the front nine and made the turn with the outright lead, reaching 9 under until he was undone on the par 3s. Wi came up right and short on the 13th, leaving him a difficult pitch to a back-right pin, and he had to scramble for bogey. He missed the 15th green to the right and had to work for bogey again.

Howell, who has not missed the Masters since 2002, caught Goosen with a 12-foot birdie on the 14th. But his next tee shot was buried in deep rough just right of the 15th green, and with only 25 feet to the pin, flubbed his chip. He made bogey, then missed the 16th green well to the right and made another bogey.

"You ride on such a thin line on a track like this, where you just know every bogey hurts more than most, because you know it's so much harder to make up," Howell said.


At Huixquilucan, Mexico, Pat Hurst shot a 4-under 68 to beat top-ranked Lorena Ochoa and Yani Tseng by one stroke at the Mastercard Classic.

Hurst sank a long putt on the 18th green at the tough BosqueReal Country Club to finish at 10-under 206. Top-ranked Ochoa (69) had three bogeys and six birdies, and Tseng (70) had three bogeys and five birdies.

European Tour

At Porto Santo, Madeira Islands, Argentina's Estanislao Goya won his first European tour title, holding off Scotland's Callum Macaulay by a stroke to capture the Madeira Islands Open.

The 20-year-old Goya started the day three shots ahead and closed with a 2-over 73 to finish at 6-under 278. Macaulay, ranked No. 1,009, equaled a course record with a 64 in which he birdied eight of the last nine holes.

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